Newsbeuter for feed reading

Although I haven’t used Google Reader for some time, theĀ announcement that it was shutting down as part of a ‘spring clean’ at Google meant that I was exposed to a wide variety of RSS readers, as numerous technology sites sought to draw up lists of alternatives.

Until recently, I had been using Feed on Feeds, but I was growing unhappy with its performance and concerned about potential security bugs, as it hasn’t been updated since 2007. I was looking for a replacement which would fulfil the following criteria:

  1. Self-hosted, as I don’t like third party websites keeping a track of what I’m reading (the main reason for leaving Google Reader many years ago).
  2. Can run either in a web browser or a screen session, so I can access my subscriptions on multiple machines.

Quite by chance, I came across a post entitled RSS with Newsbeuter, which recommended a piece of software claiming to be the Mutt of feed readers. I took it for a spin and was very pleased with the results, for the following reasons:

  1. Newsbeuter runs on the console, so I can add it to the screen session on my virtual machine and access it from anywhere over SSH. This is better than a web-based reader, as I can detach the screen session at any time and it will pick up wherever I left off next time I connect.
  2. It’s available as a Debian package, so installation was a simple matter of running apt-get install newsbeuter.
  3. Subscriptions are stored in a plain text file, so you can add a new feed by concatenating the URL to the end of the file, and easily store it in version control.
  4. Newsbeuter is a client application, so it’s not accessible to the outside world and therefore is unlikely to be exploited – unlike a self-hosted PHP application.

Of course, a console-based reader isn’t going to be to everyone’s tastes. However, if you use Mutt or slrn then you’ll feel right at home.

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